Manitoba

Dauphin church threatened to 'burn in hell' for sponsoring refugees

RCMP are trying to identify a caller after a church in Dauphin, Man., received threats for its plans to sponsor Syrian refugees.

'Somewhat saddened that someone feels that they had to go to this point,' church member says

Dauphin First United Church has received threats for its Syrian refugee sponsorship program. (Google Maps)

RCMP are trying to identify a caller after a church in Dauphin, Man., received threats for its plans to sponsor Syrian refugees.

Ron Marlin organized the sponsorship program.

"Thursday afternoon, one of the volunteers that was at our church received a phone call and the individual made it quite clear that they were not in support of what we were doing, and made what's considered a perceived threat against the church property," Marlin said.

RCMP confirmed a man told a member of Dauphin First United Church he "hoped the church would burn in hell."

Two hours after that initial call, Marlin said someone called the food bank where he volunteers and threatened him, too.

"Our local food bank here in town also received a phone call, the individual was looking for an individual from the United Church who was involved in the initiative and who had spent a lot of time volunteering at the food bank."

Marlin said as the only person heavily involved in the food bank, and as a former RCMP officer of 32 years, he figures he was the target.

Not a credible threat

"Somewhat saddened that someone feels that they had to go to this point to try to derail what a group of us has decided to do," Marlin said, adding he's not overly concerned.

RCMP spokesperson Bert Paquet said that while investigators don't believe it to be a credible threat, they are hoping to identify the man for information purposes.

The church and two others — St. Viator's Roman Catholic Church and Dauphin First Baptist Church — have reviewed the issue and are continuing with plans to sponsor three families from Syria. Marlin said it could take anywhere from two months to a year for the process to run its course.

I think it's just basic human nature that people that are in a position to help need to step up and actually help.- Ron Marlin

"We were prepared for that, I guess all we are hoping is those who are opposed would just agree to disagree on the initiative, and allow the group that wants to do this to go ahead without an act of perceived intimidation or something," Marlin said. 

"When it has gone beyond the point of sharing, and is teetering on the line of what might be considered criminal activity, then this person has kind of crossed the line."

Marlin added the majority of people in Dauphin support their efforts and sympathize with the plight of Syrian refugees.

"I can't imagine the situation getting to the point where I would risk my own life, and the lives of my family members, to have to flee what I know is home and know that I'm going out into the unknown, and I've got no idea of where home is going to be," he said.

"When it's that desperate of a situation, I think it's just basic human nature that people that are in a position to help need to step up and actually help."

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